(Plenty of former area scholastic wrestlers are competing in colleges around the country. Each week this season, The Press will check in on them. This week, The Press talked to former first-team Press All-Stars Brian Broderick and Antonio Mancella of The College of New Jersey.)

Antonio Mancella wants to go.

Brian Broderick wants to go back.

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Every college wrestler dreams of reaching the NCAA tournament and getting the chance to wrestle for a national title.

But the former first-team Press All-Stars are in the midst of big seasons at The College of New Jersey and looking to convert their dreams into reality.

Broderick is 8-3 and the top-ranked 184-pounder in NCAA Division III, but his national title hopes were almost ended only a week into the season after he suffered a knee injury in the East Stroudsburg Open on Nov. 11.

The Southern Regional High School grad missed two months of action.

"That was quite frustrating," Broderick said by telephone last week. "It took a little spark out of me, honestly. I was doing things right, working hard and getting extra work in when I could and then ... ."

The 23-year-old Manahawkin native said he still isn't 100 percent but doesn't plan to miss any more time.

"I've just been wrestling through it," Broderick said. "I don't really have a choice. I can't afford to take any more time off."

Broderick finished 28-3 last season. The senior won the NCAA East Regional to qualify for the NCAA tournament, where he earned all-American honors with a second-place finish.

He returned from the knee injury Jan. 23 with a decision against United State Merchant Marine Academy and added another win a day later against Centenary.

Broderick and the knee will be tested as the Lions wrestle three matches today and another on Sunday.

"I still have goals," Broderick said. "I still want to be a national champ. I fell a little short last year, but I still want to be a national champ. That's what I've been working for so I'm just going to keep on working."

Mancella was unsure of his wrestling future heading to TCNJ last year for his freshman season.

The 19-year-old Mays Landing native and Oakcrest graduate says he was a little burned out after coming home empty-handed in two trips to the New Jersey State Individual Wrestling Championships his junior and senior seasons.

"I was kind of tired of it all after not placing at states for a second year in a row," Mancella said. "Coming from being a bigger fish in a small pond to being a nobody in college wasn't a good feeling."

Mancella said he wasn't as committed as he needed to be and had his fair share of ups and downs in a 14-14 freshman season.

"I didn't have as good of a freshman season as I wanted to," Mancella said. "So I can only go up."

Mancella had a technical fall in TCNJ's win against USMMA on Jan. 23, but his most impressive result of the season may have been his 8-7 loss to Centenary's Chris Burdge the next day.

Burdge is ranked No. 1 in the country at 165 pounds.

"I think losing was almost a good thing so I can keep working for it," Mancella said. "But it was a good feeling knowing that I'm right there with the kids that are the best in the country right now."

Mancella is 14-8 and like Broderick, has high expectations for himself going forward.

"I am definitely looking to place at regionals and hoping to make the podium at nationals," Mancella said. "I think that's everybody's goal, but I think I'm in a good place right now."

Broderick and Mancella aren't the only locals at TCNJ.

Chris Serpico (Southern Regional) is 4-3 this season at 157 and Patrick Schinder (Lacey Township) 2-5 at 285.

Coach Joe Galante is a 2002 Ocean City High School graduate and was a two-time all-American at TCNJ. Assistant coach Brian Dempsey is a 2001 Absegami High School graduate and was a three-time all-American at TCNJ.

Contact John O’Kane:


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